career management

You need to dress the part

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business_man_and_woman_1600_wht_5662Offering advice on how to dress for the job is taking a risk. As ana ex-HR Director I know only too well. Telling someone a backless top is not appropriate in an office or that they must wear high heels? You get the point.

But someone has decided that if you want to work in “the city” there are certain things you can and can’t get away with.

  • Wearing brown shoes – or blue shoes or suede shoes or trainers or flip-flops – I could go on
  • Wearing a belt that’s a different colour from your shoes
  • Wearing socks a different colour from your underpants (I made that up but I know someone who always matched)
  • Wearing heels the wrong height – not too short and not too tall
  • Wearing a skirt that’s too short i.e. above the knee
  • Wearing a white shirt (says you’re playing safe and insecure apparently)
  • On the other hand wearing an Hawaiian shirt (says you’ve no taste)
  • Wearing a shirt with a pocket (only Dilberts wear those)
  • Wearing a brightly patterned tie
  • Showing too much cleavage
  • Wearing dangly ear-rings or anklets
  • Wearing tattoos especially sleeves or on the neck or face
  • Wearing piercings
  • Showing a t-shirt under your shirt (unless you’re a corbynista)

OK I made some of these up but does anyone really know the truth?

And can you hide some of the taboo stuff on the list?

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Firms say school leavers are unemployable

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business_figure_with_clients_400_wht_10680Tell me something new! This has been a recurring complaint, usually by the CBI or the IoD. This time it’s the British Chambers of Commerce.

What are they actually saying?

School leavers and even some university graduates are unemployable because:

  • they cannot speak confidently to adults
  • they can’t turn up for work on time
  • they speak abruptly to customers
  • they don’t look people in the eye
  • they fiddle with their phones all the time
  • they are unable to perform simple maths
  • they are unable to write clearly (presumably more comfortable with text speak)

John Longworth, the Director General of the BCoC has called for schools, and employers, to do more to help teenagers develop the “soft skills” demanded by employers and prepare them for interviews.

He also wants schools to enhance their careers services by forging better links with employers. (Do schools still have careers services?)

The chambers of commerce produced a survey showing that over 2/3 of employers thought that schools were not effective at preparing teenagers for work. Approximately the same proportion wanted improved literacy and numeracy and almost 90% wanted better communication skills. Over half wanted better computing skills and teamwork.

Mr Longworth said “It’s a scandal that we have nearly one million under-25s unemployed in the UK. Communication skills are a real problem both at interview and in the workplace where students cannot speak articulately and don’t know how to deal with people in a polite way. Then there is the whole business of punctuality where they won’t turn up for work on time and they don’t think that’s a problem

DSCN1502As career coaches my colleague and I have delivered workshops to prepare graduates for employment for several years – but in Lithuania where they realise how important this aspect of their education is.

My colleague has also worked with a number of UK universities, on a voluntary basis, preparing students for interviews via mock assessment days. He has experienced most of the above things plus inappropriate dress and lack of preparation.

Feedback – whose responsibility is it?

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360degrees2Working with a client the other day he mentioned that he never got feedback from his boss on how well he was doing. When I asked him if he ever asked for feedback he admitted he hadn’t and that he avoided bringing it up.

When I asked him why he thought his boss never gave him feedback he thought it might be because he didn’t have anything good to say – which is why he avoided bringing it up.

When questioned further he wondered, on a slightly more positive note, whether or not his boss just wasn’t used to praising staff or hadn’t been trained to do it.

It started me thinking about whose responsibility it is to provide feedback? Is it just up to the manager to do this and only at specified times of the year as part of the dreaded performance review process? Surely not.

Why shouldn’t people ask their bosses for feedback as part of their own career management?

And why stop at bosses? As anyone who has undergone a 360 degree feedback process knows it is very interesting to find out what other people think about your performance and behaviours and can be a powerful incentive to change or improve.

So maybe managers should give themselves permission to give staff feedback at any time it is appropriate and staff should be more assertive about asking, even demanding, feedback.

Years ago Schein said that everybody at work wanted to know how well they were doing. Recent research however suggests that it doesn’t necessarily work out so well for women. Women in groups receiving feedback seem to perform less well.